There are many complicated components of family law to be aware of when you’re pursuing a divorce or separation, from equitable distribution to spousal and child support. For many parents and families whether never married or going through a divorce the biggest worry of all will be around the decisions that must be made regarding parenting time, and visitation schedules.
Most every parent wants to ensure they have enough time with their child, to do their part in raising that youngster to adulthood. Following on from my serious of bullet point guides about divorce, child support, and orders of protection, I’ve decided to create this guide to parenting time to help anyone in search of quick and easy information about parenting time issues.
In this segment of the guide, we’ll be taking a look at visitation schedules, and how they can vary drastically from one family to the next.
Scheduling Visitation and Parenting Time
Visitation and parenting time schedules can differ from family to family. The aim of any court when deciding these issues is to provide the right visitation schedule to support the best interests of the child, while still providing each parent with a fair and just amount of access to their children.
- Every family is different, so parenting time and visitation schedules need to adapt to suit different family dynamics. With the right child custody lawyer, you can even keep parenting time schedules reasonably vague, so you and your partner can discuss and agree on mutually beneficial parenting time going forward.
- Perhaps the most common schedule I often see involves one parent having parenting time every other weekend from Saturday morning or Friday evening to Sunday evening or the morning of Monday. This can include bi-weekly and weekly visitations during the week to accompany the weekends too. In this environment, one parent would be the primary residential parent in custody terms.
- In the afore-mentioned schedule, parents will also need to discuss their options when it comes to holidays and school breaks. Often an alternating pattern is agreed upon. However, some parents will have specific requests about which holiday they would like to spend with their child. If the holiday is equally important to both parents, a discussion may be necessary to determine how the time should be shared. The schedule can be fixed in the order or as time goes on it can be worked out between the parents (which means they need to talk to figure these things out). For parents that are not capable of doing this it is best to have set schedule.
- The parent with access to visitation time is usually the one responsible for picking up the child and dropping them off at the other parent’s house, however, this isn’t always the case. An order or agreement can be very specific, indicating the time of the drop-off, and whether it will be a curb-side drop-off to reduce conflicts between certain parents.
- Provisions in parenting time and visitation schedules also have to be considered when missed visitation occurs, or when a parent drops the child off outside of the schedule agreed upon. In some cases, extra time may need to be permitted to the parent receiving visitation if they have missed out on other opportunities to see their children.
The Complexity of Parenting Times
Different families have different needs when it comes to parenting time schedules. Some families require equal parenting time schedules. This is the case when joint custody is an option, and residential custody is spread between both parents equally. In the case of a joint residential custody order, school breaks, holiday and vacation schedules would usually follow a similar arrangement as mentioned above, with alternating timelines accepted by both parents.
- Creating equal parenting time schedules can be more complicated for some parties than others. One option is to alternate weeks between each parent, while another would involve splitting the time between both guardians with specific days of the weeks attributed to specific people. Equal parenting time arrangements can also involve alternating months, although this is rarely the case.
- Some schedules require supervised visitation for one parent. In these cases, the supervisor may be the other parent, or a friend or family member. Supervisors can also be issued by special organizations that offer safe visitation agreements for specific time intervals. As usual, the courts will determine what kind of supervision is necessary to preserve the best interests of the children in any case.
- There are rules in place to ensure each parent can get the right amount of parenting time. For instance, non-relocation clauses are common, stating that neither parent will be able to relocate far enough from the other parent that it will affect visitation time. Out-of-state parents who already live in different locations will need to establish different parenting time arrangements. This might mean allowing out-of-state parents longer times during vacation times when the children are away from school.
- Other clauses can also be added to parenting and visitation time agreements, like clauses which require each parent to avoid speaking poorly about the other in the presence of the children. The court can also order that neither parent will use alcohol, cigarettes, and other substances in the presence of the child.
- I have encountered situations wherein parents have asked for provisions to be included in parenting time orders which ensure the parent with visitation or custodial rights does not encourage the children to cause another person their mother or father, besides the biological parent. However, this will not prevent the child from choosing to do so themselves.
Agreeing on Visitation and Parenting Times
Parenting time agreements and schedules are issued as part of parenting time and custody cases in Supreme and Family court. While the family court commonly deals with unmarried couples looking for parenting time issues, supreme courts can deal with married couples as part of a divorce or post judgment divorce case. Married couples that do not live together can also deal with their parenting time and custody issues in family court. The family court does not have jurisdiction over custody and parenting time for married couples that are going to continue to live together.
- After a divorce case, the family court or Supreme court can both be used for various matters involving child custody, parenting time, and visitation agreements. Changes can even be sought in some cases for parenting time arrangements, but only if a significant change of circumstances has taken place.
- Parenting time agreements can be presented by parties who have discussed their options during a mediation session. However, there is no guarantee that these agreements will be ordered by the court, although if they are reasonable plans, usually a court will sign off on what the parents agreed upon.
- The court must choose the right parenting time and custodial arrangements based on the best interests of the children.
If you have any further questions about these parenting time and visitation issues, please feel free to reach out for an initial consultation, up to the first 30 minutes is free by reaching out to my office to get on our calendar. There is a contact form on this website, or you can reach out over the phone.